My Acrylic Nails Changed My Life
Having the manicured touch allowed me a form of expression I never knew I needed
It has been more than two years since I started wearing a full set of acrylic nails every day. For femmes who have embarked on the long-nail lifestyle, this is not a long time, and any cuticle queen will tell you how you will get used to it. I wasn’t too concerned. I had grown tired of painting my nails poorly and seeing them chip within days. My hands, gifts from my mother, are inarguably one of my most feminine features. I see my mother in my hands, and her hands have always been so beautiful. She hasn’t worn acrylics as long as I’ve known her: Her hands are “all-natural” beautiful; mine require more finesse.
The impetus for getting acrylics branched from several places. First, they served as a semipermanent exterior signal of queerness. I wanted to read as a kind of queer that may require special attention. People respond specifically to long nails, especially the prismatic array I keep on my hands. I wanted to be unquestionably questionable, and this desire, I’ve learned, could cost me my life, but this isn’t about the danger.
In many ways, getting my nails done was an act of desperation. I had been scouring the internet for days, convincing myself I could maintain a full set. I saw how to remove them. The kinds of chemicals. The powders. The techniques. There was a nail salon not even five minutes from my front door. Closer than the liquor store I frequented at the time. It was fine. It was close. It would do. The reviews didn’t matter. They didn’t.
The liquor stores in Detroit use bulletproof glass and swivel chambers at the counter. There is a slim sliver of space for paper money and coins, the only gap in the decidedly thick yet transparent wall between customer and clerk. One afternoon, just weeks before I got my first set of acrylics, I was buying my daily 40-ouncers (yes, plural), and my fingers grazed the clerk’s. We made brief eye contact, and he had a kind smile. I was petrified and quietly hyperventilated all the way home.
I drank several whiskey shots and rolled a blunt in my sparse Detroit room. I had moved to Michigan after seeking exile from my postgraduate Boston life. I had ruined many close friendships and was in…